Long Beach City Council members will soon decide to approve or reject two appeals against a new oil storage project near the city’s port.
The two new storage tanks, which could hold 25,000 barrels and 50,000 barrels respectively, would be constructed near Long Beach. The new storage tanks would add to the World Oil’s storage facility at the Port.
However, environmental activists claim that the port and city have not considered the potential health and environmental effects of the new storage facility. This is a claim that the Harbor Department has denied in its response to the appeals.
Two environmental groups, Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (SAFER) and another coalition of Long Beach residents and advocacy organizations appealed the Harbor Commission’s October decision to approve the oil storage project.
Harbor filed an initial survey and negative declaration for the project. This is a declaration and study that declares there will be no significant environmental effects.
Both groups disagree that a project of this magnitude requires an environmental impact study. Both groups of environmental experts disagree with the assertion that this project would have significant effects on the environment or the health and well-being of local residents.
A staff report stated that the City Council will vote Tuesday on whether the initial study and negative declaration were in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. If council members affirm it, the project will move forward. The Harbor would need to conduct another CEQA analysis, such as an environment impact report, if it is not.
According to the staff report, the Harbor Department’s initial study found there was no evidence this project would cause any significant environmental impact.
SAFER and the Coalition For Clean Air (which includes environmental groups Earthjustice & the Coalition For Clean Air) both stated that the new storage tanks would pollute vulnerable communities’ air.
“Over its lifetime, it will emit over 200,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants,” said Kartik Raj, a lawyer for Earthjustice in a recent interview with this newsgroup.
Raj stated that even though these new storage tanks won’t be processing oil, they can still emit chemicals such as benzene which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can cause cancer.
But in response to the appeal, the Harbor said: “The studies referenced by The Coalition as evidence of the underestimation of (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions are just thatstudies,” the staff report read. “They have not been approved by any regulatory agency for use in determining the significance of environmental impacts under CEQA.”
Other complaints, among others,are that the new project would create hazardous sludge, but the Harbor Department argues sludge wouldn’t pose a risk if it’s routinely transported and disposed.
And another is the project is not prepared to face a natural disaster such as the recent tsunami advisory an issue the Harbor Department also said it’s prepared for.
Though the Harbor Department said it doesn’t need it, with a project at this scale, and some concerned local residents, those who appeal want an environmental impact report so they can fully understand how this project may affect their health and local environment.
‘In the eyes of the Port and the city of Long Beach, this project might be a drop in the bucket or it might be insignificant,” said Oscar Espino-Padron, another Earthjustice lawyer, “but that perspective ignores that communities are already drowning in the pollution of the oil industry.”